I started this as an entry into some forgotten competition. Was cleaning off what used to be my ‘writing’ desk and stumbled upon it. Just a bit of the flotsam and jetsam that I sometimes manage to get on to paper.
I always wanted an Easy Bake oven, I tell her. She looks at me with the incredulous look only an eight-year-old can have. Her eyes say: They had Easy-Bake ovens when you were little? I smile. Answer: Yes, Hailey. She smiles that bright quick smile I adore; caught.
My parents couldn’t afford it, I say. She hmmphs and stirs the itty bitty bit of batter that will make three miniature whoopee pies. I am enjoying this more than I imagined I would. Why couldn’t they afford it, she asks just before she pops a finger sticky with red velvet cake batter into her mouth. Her eyes, big and blue, are searching.
Because I had seven brothers and sisters I say simply. Her eyes widen. She’s met all but one of my siblings, but she doesn’t compute that they add up to so many. Well, I have Timmy and Ethan, she says matter-of-factly and Santa brought me one. Oh, oh, this could be tricky. I asked for one for my birthday, I say, hopefully dodging the “is Santa real?” question. She considers this, is silent a moment, then just says: oh.
Easy-Bake oven baking is a lot more complicated than real baking. All those tiny amounts of cake mix and water and icing and sprinkles are difficult to deal with. The ‘whoopee cushions’ as Hailey calls them turn out okay, though. They are messy as hell to put together but we do a pretty okay job of it. There is one for each of us: Grampa, Gramma, Hailey, Timothy and Ethan. There is one extra. I tell Hailey it is hers, because she’s the cook. She’s pleased with that.
We all eat our one-and-a-half inch pies and make a suitable fuss about how good they are. Truthfully, I find them rather dreadful and shudder to think of the myriad chemicals we’ve ingested. But, she’s my granddaughter, they my grandsons; and I’ll do anything for them. At that I wonder: shouldn’t I have protected them from this, then? What kind of grandmother allows her grandchildren to be poisoned with artificial colourings and flavouring?
The indulgent kind, that’s what kind.
And then it’s time to clean up.